July 6, 2001

Sri Lankan squad end training camp at Dambulla

Rex Clementine Fernando

The Sri Lankan training pool returned to Colombo last night after a three-day training camp at Dambulla. According to the team management the camp was a success, providing the players, who have less than two weeks to go until a tri-nation tournament against India and New Zealand, with a valuable chance to familiarise themselves with conditions at the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium, a venue which has hosted only one One-Day International so far.

The cricketers arrived in Dambulla on Tuesday and after a short practices session in the afternoon, they were back in the stadium for a full day's work out on Wednesday. They finished up the camp by playing a 50-over match on Thursday.

National coach, Dav Whatmore, Owen Mottau, who works with the batsmen, and Rumesh Ratnayake, the fast bowling coach, all were happy with the three-day camp. There were, however, some absentees: star batsman, Aravinda de Silva, failed to arrive back in time for the training camp after a charity match in England and some members of the squad played against Pakistan A in the three-match one-day series.

Apart from the One-Day International against England in March, the venue has staged two limited over games against the visiting Canadian national side and a four-day game against Pakistan A. Unfortunately, however, the stadium has developed little during the last three-months and there is still much work to be done after recent controversies.

Thursdays 50 over practice game, where there was not a single spectator, as police blocked off the ground stadium, was between a Marvan Atappattu XI versus a Sanath Jayasuriya XI. Atapattu had the main batsmen and Jayasuriya was given the frontline bowlers.

Atapattu won the toss and elected to bat first. A decision that was vindicated by the deterioration in the pitch during the second innings - Atapattu's team won by 118 runs. Even if you assume that the pitch for the ODI's will be far superior, then lesson number one has to be that batting will be easiest in the first innings.

Rangana Herath and Malintha Warnapura exploited those second innings conditions well, taking six wickets for 60 runs in 18 overs. One wonders what Murali would have done - Dambulla is certainly not playing like the fast track we were promised.

Atappattu's side amassed 278 runs for three wickets in their allotted 50 overs, against a bowling attack that comprised Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Nuwan Zoysa, and Kumar Dharmasena. Atapattu top scored with 73 off 85 deliveries with seven fours and a six. Apart from the captain, Russel Arnold made 53 in 61 balls before retiring and Mahela Jayawardene made 35 in 32 balls. Hashan Tillakaratne, who is unlikely to play in the one-day series, made a useful 27 not out.

In reply, Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana opened the batting. Jayasuriya was simply superb, not only the bad deliveries were hit to the fence, bit even the good length deliveries found the same destiny. He made 61 in 68 deliveries with eight boundaries and a six and threatened to single handedly take his side to victory, but finally mistimed a lofted drive to long-off off the bowling of Rangana Herath.

His side's hopes faded thereafter. None of the other batsmen crossed the 20 runs mark as they struggled against the spinners on a deteriorating pitch. Rangana Hearth was impressive picking up four wickets for 39 in his 10 overs. Malintha Warnapura provided good support bowling from the Score Board End, picking up two wickets for 21 runs.

In the end, it was a convincing 118 run victory for Atapattu's side as Jayasuriya's team was bowled out for 160 in the 39th over of the match.